Desperado

( 39 )

Overview

Tough and relentless, Cord Romero lives for the adrenaline rush that comes with being a mercenary for hire. But this time the job is personal. Having barely survived a murder attempt from an elusive enemy, Cord is determined to neutralize his foe—the head of a multinational corporation that fronts a child labor ring. In order to get closer to his target, Cord joins forces with the Lassiter Detective Agency, where he's reunited with his childhood friend Maggie Barton.

Maggie is ...

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Overview

Tough and relentless, Cord Romero lives for the adrenaline rush that comes with being a mercenary for hire. But this time the job is personal. Having barely survived a murder attempt from an elusive enemy, Cord is determined to neutralize his foe—the head of a multinational corporation that fronts a child labor ring. In order to get closer to his target, Cord joins forces with the Lassiter Detective Agency, where he's reunited with his childhood friend Maggie Barton.

Maggie is no longer the impressionable young woman he once knew. She is now strong, independent and in charge of her own life—and, professionally, Cord's equal. She has one vulnerability: a tragic secret from her past that threatens her relationship with Cord…and sets her up as a pawn for his deadly enemy.

Cord cannot afford to be distracted during the most important case of his life. But Maggie plays an indispensable part in unraveling the links to his enemy's crimes. Forced to trust each other for their very survival, Cord and Maggie embark on a lethal game of cat and mouse that can leave only one winner standing.

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Editorial Reviews

Rave Reviews
No one beats this author for sensual anticipation.
Rendezvous
This story is a thrill a minute — one of Ms. Palmer's best.
Romantic Times
A love story that is pure and enjoyable.
Affaire de Coeur
Diana Palmer is a mesmerizing storyteller who captures the essence of what a romance should be.
Publishers Weekly
A gripping story is sabotaged by leaden writing in this hardcover debut from bestselling author Palmer (The Texas Ranger; Lord of the Desert). Mercenary Cord Romero returns to his Texas ranch after barely avoiding being blown up by a bomb planted by his arch-enemy, Raoul Gruber, only to find his beautiful and long-estranged foster sister, Maggie Barton, at his door. Disturbed by his desire for Maggie, Cord lashes out at her. Heartbroken by Cord's hostility, and jobless she left the perfect job in Morocco to rush to Cord's side Maggie takes a job in Houston doing the books at a detective agency. She quickly finds herself tangled up in a mission to bring down Gruber and his international ring of child labor exploitation baddies and when Gruber discovers her connection to Cord, she becomes his next target. Maggie and Cord flee overseas to catch Gruber, traveling from Houston to Spain and Morocco and back again to lure him into their trap. Believable sexual tension sizzles between Maggie and Cord as they struggle with their haunted pasts and crippling secrets in order to find the strength to trust each other. Unfortunately, their cookie-cutter personalities make the romance fall flat, and Cord's me-Tarzan-you-Jane high-handed treatment of Maggie is far from sexy. Palmer's compelling suspense and beautiful visuals keep the reader interested, but repetitive and hackneyed writing ("her shell-like ear") bog down an otherwise fast-paced romantic thriller. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Debut hardcover, about a mercenary soldier who cracks an international child-slave ring. But Cord Romero, who is no ordinary mercenary. He's the son of a famous Spanish bullfighter (who conveniently died in America, thus orphaning Cord as a teenager). When not chasing bad guys, Cord raises prize bulls on his Texas ranch. Still, he can't stay out of action for long, and the Global Enterprises case makes his blood boil. The CEO, a shadowy figure named Gruber, nets millions from an operation that buys or steals Third World children from their poor, illiterate parents and sells them to mining companies, agribusinesses, and child pornographers. When Cord got too close to vital information about Global, Gruber's evil henchmen set off a bomb in his face. Fortunately, he's blinded only temporarily-and that's how his former foster sister Maggie finds him. She's always loved Cord, even though he took her virginity one night years ago when he was drunk and then was horrified at what he had done. Maggie married a rich man, whose physical abuse landed her in the hospital a few months later, but he's dead now. Cord is also free of personal entanglements, though it's clear he grieved deeply after his wife's recent suicide. Not surprisingly, these two are passionately drawn to each other once more, in breathless, category-romance style. Lashes flutter, bosoms heave, and three-dot ellipses abound as Cord wastes no time in bedding her. "Can't . . . stop," he gasps. "Can't . . . stop!" Yes, Cord is one hot-blooded dude, but Maggie keeps her priorities straight as she writhes blissfully under the onslaught of all that manly lovemaking. "Cord . . . make me . . . have a baby!" Meanwhile, back at thechild-slavery HQ, there are dark mutterings about getting rid of Cord and Maggie forever. Can the reunited lovers join forces with crime-fightin' pals Dane and Tess Lassiter and rid the world of this evil scourge? A silly thriller with a decidedly old-fashioned tone, especially in the clinches.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373774760
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/1/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Diana Palmer is renowned as one of North America's top ten romance writers. When she published her first novel in 1979, fans immediately fell in love with her sensual, charming romances. A die-hard romantic who married her husband five days after they met, Diana says that she wrote her first book at age thirteen—and has been hooked ever since. Diana's hobbies include gardening, knitting, quilting, anthropology, astronomy and music.

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Read an Excerpt

The ranch outside Houston was big and sprawling. It was surrounded by neat white fences, which concealed electrical ones, to keep in the purebred Santa Gertrudis cattle that Cord Romero owned. There was also a bull, a special bull, which had been spared from a corrida—a bullfight—in Spain by Cord's father, Mejias Romero, one of the most famous bullfighters in Spain just before his untimely death in America. Once Cord grew up and had money of his own, Cord had traveled to his elderly cousin's ranch in Andalusia to get the bull and have it shipped to Texas. Cord called the old bull Hijito, little boy. The creature was still all muscle, although most of it was in his huge chest. He followed Cord around the ranch like a pet dog.

As Maggie Barton exited the cab with her suitcase, the big bull snorted and tossed his head on the other side of the fence.

Maggie barely spared him a glance after she paid the driver. She'd come rushing home from Morocco in a tangle of missed planes, delays, cancellations and other obstacles that had caused her to be three days in transit. Cord, a professional mercenary and her foster brother, had been blinded. Most surprising, he'd asked for her through his friend, Eb Scott. Maggie couldn't get home fast enough. The delays had been agony.

Perhaps, finally, Cord had realized that he cared for her...!

With her heart pounding, she pressed the doorbell on the spacious front porch with its green swing and glider and rocking chairs. There were pots of ferns and flowers everywhere.

Sharp, quick footsteps sounded on the bare wooden floors in the house and Maggie frowned as she pushed the long, wavy black hair away out of her worried green eyes. Those steps didn't sound like Cord's. He had an elegance of movement in his stride that was long and effortless, masculine but gliding. This was a short, staccato step, more like a woman's. Her heart stopped. Did he have a girlfriend she didn't know about? Had she misinterpreted Eb Scott's phone call? Her confidence nosedived.

The door opened and a slight blond woman with dark eyes looked up at her. "Yes?" she asked politely.

"I came to see Cord," Maggie blurted out. Jet lag was already setting in on her. She didn't even think to give her name.

"I'm sorry, he isn't seeing people just yet. He's been in an accident."

"I know that," Maggie said impatiently. She softened the words with a smile. "Tell him it's Maggie. Please."

The other woman, who must have been all of nineteen, grimaced. "He'll kill me if I let you in! He said he didn't want to see anybody. I'm really sorry..."

Jet lag and irritability combined to break the bonds of Maggie's temper. "Listen, I've just come over three thousand miles—oh, the hell with it! Cord?" she yelled past the girl, who grimaced again. "Cord!"

There was a pause, then a cold, short, "Let her in, June!"

June stepped aside at once. Maggie was made uneasy by the harsh note in Cord's deep voice. She left her suitcase on the porch. June gave it a curious glance before she closed the door.

Cord was standing at the fireplace in the spacious living room. Just the sight of him fed Maggie's heart. He was tall and lean, powerfully built for all his slimness, a tiger of a man who feared nothing in this world. He made his living as a professional soldier, and he had few peers. He was handsome, with light olive skin and jet-black hair that had a slight wave. His eyes were large, deep-set, dark brown. His eyebrows were drawn into a scowl as Maggie walked in, and except for the red wounds around his eyes and cheeks, he actually looked normal. He looked as if he could see her. Ridiculous, of course. A bomb he'd tried to defuse had gone off right in his face. Eb said he was blind.

She stared at him. This man was the love of her life. There had never been anyone but him in her heart. She was amazed that he'd never noticed, in the eighteen years their lives had been connected. Even his brief, tragic marriage hadn't altered those feelings. Like him, she was widowed—but she didn't grieve for her husband the way he'd grieved for Patricia.

Her gaze fell helplessly to his wide, chiseled mouth. She remembered, oh, so well, the feel of it on hers in the darkness. It had been heaven to be held by him, kissed by him, after years of anguished longing. But very quickly, the pleasure had become pain. Cord hadn't known she was innocent, and he was too drunk to notice at the time. It was just after his wife committed suicide, the night their foster mother had died...

"How are you?" Maggie blurted out, hesitating just beyond the doorway, suddenly tongue-tied.

His square jaw seemed to tighten, but he smiled coldly. "A bomb exploded in my face four days ago. How the hell do you think I am?" he drawled sarcastically.

He was anything but welcoming. So much for fantasies. He didn't need her. He didn't want her around. It was just like old times. And she'd come running. What a joke.

"It amazes me that even a bomb could faze you," she remarked with her old self-possession. She even smiled. "Mr. Cold Steel repels bullets, bombs, and especially, me!"

He didn't react. "Nice of you to stop by. And so promptly," he added.

She didn't understand the remark. He seemed to feel she'd procrastinated about visiting. "Eb Scott phoned and said you'd been hurt. He said..." She hesitated, uncertain whether or not to tell him everything Eb had said to her. She went for broke, but she laughed to camouflage her raw emotions. "He said you wanted me to come nurse you. Funny, huh?"

He didn't laugh. "Hilarious."

She felt the familiar whip of his sarcasm with pain she didn't try to hide. After all, he couldn't see it. "That's our Eb," she agreed. "A real kidder. I guess you have—what was her name?— June to take care of you?" she added with forced lightness.

"That's right. I have June. She's been here since I got home." He emphasized the pronoun, for reasons of his own. He smiled deliberately. "June is all I need. She's sweet and kindhearted, and she really cares about me."

She forced a smile. "She's pretty, too."

He nodded. "Isn't she, though? Pretty, smart, and a good cook. And she's blond," he added in a cold, soft voice that made chills run down her spine.

She didn't have to puzzle out the remark. He was partial to blondes. His late wife, Patricia, had been a blonde. He'd loved Patricia...

She rubbed her fingers over the strap of her shoulder bag and realized with a start how tired she was. Airport after airport, dragging her suitcase, agonizing over Cord's true state of health for three long days, just trying to get home to him— and he acted as if she'd pushed her way in. Perhaps she had. Eb should have told her the truth, that Cord still didn't want her in his life, even when he was injured.

She gave him a long, anguished look and moved one shoulder restlessly. "Well, that puts me in my place," she said

pleasantly. "I'm sure not blond. Nice to see you're still on your feet. But I'm sorry about your eyes," she added.

"What about my eyes?" he asked curtly, scowling fiercely.

"Eb said you were blinded," she replied.

"Temporarily blinded," he corrected. "It's not a permanent condition. I can see fairly well now, and the ophthalmologist expects a complete recovery."

Her heart jumped. He could see? She realized then that he was watching her, not just staring into a void. It came as a shock. She hadn't been guarding her expressions. She felt uncomfortable, knowing he'd been able to glimpse the misery and worry on her face.

"No kidding? That's great news!" she said, and forced a convincing smile. She was getting the hang of this. Her face would be permanently gleeful, like a piece of fired sculpture. She could hire it out for celebrations. This wasn't one.

"Isn't it?" he agreed, but his returned smile wasn't pleasant at all.

She shifted the strap of her bag again, feeling weak at the knees and embarrassed by her headlong rush to his side. She'd given up her new job and come running home to take care of Cord. But he didn't need her, or want her here. Now she had no job, no place to live, and only her savings to get her through the time until she could find employment. She never learned.

He was barely courteous, and his expression was hostile. "Thanks for coming. I'm sorry you have to leave so soon," he added. "I'll be glad to walk you to the door."

She lifted an eyebrow, and gave him a sardonic look. "No need to give me the bum's rush," she said. "I got the message, loud and clear. I'm not welcome. Fine. I'll leave skid marks going out the door. You can have June scrub them off later."

"Everything's a joke with you," he accused coldly.

"It beats crying," she replied pleasantly. "I need my head read for coming out here in the first place. I don't know why I bothered!"

"Neither do I," he agreed with soft venom. "A day late and a dollar short, at that."

That was enigmatic, but she was too angry to question his phrasing. "You don't have to belabor the point. I'm going," she assured him. "In fact, it's just a matter of another few interviews and I can arrange things so that you'll never have to see me again."

"That would be a real pleasure," he said with a bite in his deep voice. He was still glaring at her. "I'll give a party."

He was laying it on thick. It was as if he were furious with her, for some reason. Perhaps just her presence was enough to set him off. That was nothing new.

She only laughed. She'd had years to perfect her emotional camouflage. It was dangerous to give Cord an opening. He had no compunction about sticking the knife in. They were old adversaries.

"I won't expect an invitation," she told him complacently. "Ever thought of taking early retirement, while you still have a head that can be blown off?" she added.

He didn't answer.

She shrugged and sighed. "I must be in demand somewhere," she told the room at large. "I'll have myself paged at the airport and find out."

She gave him one long, last look, certain that it would be the last time her eyes would see that handsome face. There was some old saying about divine punishment in the form of showing paradise to a victim and then tossing him back into reality. It was like that with Maggie, having known the utter delight of Cord's lovemaking only once. Despite the pain and embarrassment, and his fury afterward, she'd never been able to forget the wonder of his mouth on her body for the first time. The rejection she felt now was almost palpable, and she had to hide it. It wasn't easy.

"Thanks for the caring concern," he drawled.

"Oh, anytime," she replied merrily. "But you can phone me yourself next time you stick your face in a bomb and want tending. And just for the record, you can tell Eb his sense of humor stinks!"

"Tell him yourself," he shot back. "You were engaged to him, weren't you?"

Only because I couldn't have you, she thought, and your marriage was killing me. But she didn't say another word. She smiled carelessly, dragged her eyes away from him, turned neatly on her heel and started back out the door.

She'd just gone through the doorway when he called to her suddenly, reluctantly, in a husky tone, "Maggie!"

She didn't hesitate for a second. She was angry now, too, angry that she'd come three thousand miles, that she'd been stupid enough to care about a man who'd never returned her feelings, that she'd believed Eb Scott when he said Cord had asked for her.

June was in the hall, frowning. The frown deepened when she saw Maggie's face, saw the hurt the woman was trying valiantly to hide.

"Are you all right?" she asked in a quick whisper.

Maggie couldn't manage many words at that point. June was Cord's new love interest. Maggie couldn't bear to look at her. She just nodded, a curt jerk of her head. "Thanks," she bit off, and kept walking.

She went out the front door and closed it behind her. Despite that faint call, Cord hadn't pursued her. Maybe he felt momentarily guilty for being so unwelcoming. His sense of hospitality was probably outraged, but she knew from the past that he didn't dwell on his conscience. Meanwhile, she wanted nothing more than to get her long fingernails into Eb Scott. He was happily married now, and she knew he hadn't phoned her to be malicious, but he'd caused her untold misery by upsetting her about Cord's condition. Why?

She stood on the front porch for a moment, trying to get herself together again. Houston was about twenty minutes miles away, and she'd sent the cab off, expecting to stay with Cord and take care of him. She laughed out loud.

She looked toward the highway. Oh, well. As they said, walking was great exercise. She was glad that she'd worn sneakers instead of high heels with her nice gray pantsuit. She could spend the time it took walking to Houston thinking about her stupidity. She noticed that Cord didn't strain his sense of hospitality offering her a ride, either.

She tugged her wheeled suitcase along with her down the steps and started down the driveway with growing amusement at the absurdity of her predicament. She glanced down at the suitcase with a whimsical smile. "I don't even have a horse to ride off into the sunset on. Well, it's just you and me, old paint," she said, reaching down to pat the suitcase. "Let's mosey!"

Back in the living room, Cord Romero was standing where Maggie had left him, frozen with anger by the fireplace.

June looked in, worried. "She seemed concerned about you," she began.

"Sure," he said on a cold laugh. "It's twenty minutes from Houston and she couldn't drive out here any sooner than this. Some concern!"

"But she had a—!" she began, about to tell him about the suitcase Maggie had left on the porch.

He held up a big, lean hand. "Not another word," he said firmly. "I don't want to hear one more thing about her. Bring me a cup of coffee, would you? Then send Red Davis in here."

"Yes, sir," she said.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Another great romance from this talented author

    Mercenary Cord Romero returns to his Texas ranch to recuperate from a near death experience caused when his enemy Raoul Gruber tried to kill him with a bomb. Waiting for him at his spread is his estranged foster sister, Maggie Barton, who left a job in Morocco to be near Cord, whom she loves unrequitedly.<P> Cord knows he must destroy his foe so he joins Lassiter Detective Agency where Maggie works to have an opportunity to get closer to Raoul. However, Raoul remains elusive with powerful protection as befitting the head of an international corporation that actually serves as a front for a child labor ring. When Raoul learns who Maggie is, he decides she is the perfect pawn to get at Cord even as the duo tries to lure their adversary into a trap.<P> The story line is loaded with action and non stop suspense as the ¿duel¿ between the hero and the villain play out in three countries. Maggie and Cord struggle to overcome their troubled childhoods in order to form a permanent relationship, but the male protagonist is too macho and cavalier when it comes to the heroine. Still fans of fast-paced romantic suspense thrillers will enjoy the rapidly moving DESPERADO.<P> Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    somebody just smack me up side the head the next time I start to

    somebody just smack me up side the head the next time I start to buy one of her books. Same old same old. mean as the devil leading man meets too stupid to get out of her own way.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    love cord!

    love cord!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    GREAT BOOK!

    I very much enjoyed reading this book. I would highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2003

    Sexy as can be!!

    Full of fun and adventure. Made my heart stop and speed at the same time. Didn't want to put the book down. Diana did a great job!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2003

    Deperado is a non stop read

    I couldn't put this book down once I read the first few pages. The chemistry is raw and unrelenting. A true pleasure, Cord was everything a strong willed mercenary should be. Although unlikely matched they were a perfect fit. Their love and obession with each other pulled on my heartstrings. This book makes clear the past can be in the past if both people are willing to try.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2003

    One of her best!

    I loved this book. I have read so many of her books and this is definitely one her of best. All of her stories are so full of raw, honest emotion. I haven't read anything by her in awhile and it felt so good to read one of her stories again. Her stories leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I would give my right arm to meet any one of the men that are in her stories. I wish men like that really existed! I love how the characters in all of her books are either related or connected some how to each other. I can't wait to read more of her new books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    DP Does It Again...

    No one beats Diana Palmer for sensual anticipation; this most recent story is no exception. Maggie introduced in 'Lord of the Desert', hops a plane back to the states to be with Cord, who is recuperating from an eye injury sustained while disarming an explosive device. Cord lashes out at Maggie, who is heartbroken over his hostility, and what she gave up overseas to return to Cord's side. The pace picks up from this point on; the sexual tension flying like sparks between Cord and Maggie. Enter the Lassiter Detective Agency, and the mission to bring down Gruber and his international bad boys is off and running. Cord and Maggie struggle throughout with their tormented pasts, especially Maggie, who has been through more than any woman should ever have to face. Can any man ever convince Maggie to trust again? This book is what we have come to love and expect from DP. The hero is DP's usual arrogant alpha male, the heroine vulnerable, but they get beyond their usual bickering and on to the main story line rather quickly. Plus we get to find out what characters from past books are up to, and leave us wondering whom the next Soldier of Fortune book will be about. Makes for a light enjoyable read in-between the heavy-duty stuff.

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